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Should "Value" Be the New Mantra in Health Care?

Words can spearhead social transformation. Let’s hope that’s true for "value" in health care. Where other mantras—such as quality or managed care—have failed to galvanize the system’s diverse stakeholders, value may have a chance.

What seems special about the term is that, seemingly simple, it is actually complex and subtle. Under its umbrella, a wide range of interested parties can find the things they hold most dear, from improved patient outcomes to coordination of care to efficiency to patient-centeredness. And it is intuitively appealing. As Thomas Lee noted in the New England Journal of Medicine, "no one can oppose this goal and expect long-term success."

The question, of course, is whether the term will help spur the fundamental changes that our health care sector so desperately needs. In this regard, a closer examination of the value concept confirms its appeal but also exposes the daunting challenges facing health system reformers.

Read more from Dr. Blumenthal and Kristof Stremikis' guest post on the "Leading Health Care Innovation" blog, part of the Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Leading Health Care Innovation is an eight-week online forum devoted to helping leaders, managers, and others in health care increase value by improving patient outcomes and reducing costs.

Publication Details

Publication Date: September 20, 2013
Citation: D. Blumenthal, Should "Value" Be the New Mantra in Health Care?, The Commonwealth Fund, September 2013.


David Blumenthal, M.D.
President, The Commonwealth Fund
Associate Director for Policy, Pacific Business Group on Health